Northwood Expands Composting Program

Compost

Su Hae (Jessica) Jang ‘20 and Imani Hawman ‘20 with a bucket of kitchen waste headed to the composter (Photo: Mr. Tyler Eaton).

Two years ago, two freshmen began transforming food waste from the school kitchen into natural fertilizer for the garden on campus. Collaborating with the kitchen staff, the girls composted two five-gallon buckets of food scraps per week using a small compost tumbler adjacent to the school greenhouse. By their second year at Northwood, they had built an outdoor three-bin composting system behind the Friedlander science building and were composting about 70 to 80 gallons of organic waste every week.

As they begin their senior year, Su Hae (Jessica) Jang ‘20 and Imani Hawman ‘20 look forward to expanding the composting program at Northwood through the giant drum composter behind the Shipman Youth Center here in Lake Placid. “Northwood produces about 40 to 180 pounds of organic waste a day. The three-bin composting system didn’t have the capacity to handle all of that” said Jang, the President of Northwood’s Sustainability Committee. “Now that we have a new composter in town, we’ll be able to compost all of the food waste from the school kitchen and the dining hall, including bones, meat, oils, veggies, what have you,” she added.

The new composting machine is one of the three replicas of a model composter that was built at North Country School three years ago. Funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Cleaner, Greener Communities (CGC) Program, North Country School installed three additional composters this summer–one of each at Lake Placid Central School, Hermon De-Kalb Central School in St. Lawrence County, and The Wild Center, a natural history museum in Tupper Lake. Each composter can handle an input of 300 pounds of food waste each day, year-round.

Northwood was the first to partner with Lake Placid High School. Last Friday, on September 13th, Mr. Tyler Eaton, the faculty advisor of the Sustainability Committee, added the first buckets of food waste along with wood pellets to the composting facility. “The cost is $0.10 per pound of waste, the same cost for waste at the Town of North Elba Transfer Station,” Mr. Eaton said. “Since the Committee will be diverting all food waste from the back of the school kitchen, composting two to three times per week, Northwood’s trash dumpster size and pick-up schedule should decrease.”

As the teacher of Environmental Science at Northwood, Mr. Eaton thinks that students can further the composting efforts on campus by designing an independent study focusing on the impact of composting on sustainability. “It seems feasible that we create a course for composting. We could use half of that course time for actual composting, and use the other half to do some independent research, whether it might be research into the economic side, the environmental carbon footprint side, or the social aspect side of composting. A designated period for the course would be nice to get our compost transported multiple times a week,” said Mr. Eaton. He continued, “The course could be cool, interactive, and hands-on learning, and, at the same time, count toward hours of independent study.”

The problem remaining for the Sustainability Committee and the Northwood community is the lack of student volunteers to transport kitchen compost to the drum composter in town. “We need to find a way to involve more students. Right now, we need at least three volunteers who are willing to transport our food waste to the composter in one of their free periods,” Jang said. “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to compost organic waste locally, engage students, partner with the local community, all while decreasing the school’s carbon footprint. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me,” said Jang.

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